Raoul Kopelman-featured

In Memoriam–Professor Raoul Kopelman

Professor mentored more than 70 PhD students throughout his career.

U-M BME is saddened to learn about the passing of Professor Raoul Kopelman. Professor Kopelman (1933 to 2023) passed away in Ann Arbor on July 20 at the age of 89. He was a jointly appointed professor of biomedical engineering from 2006 until 2014 and remained an active member of our faculty until his passing.

Professor Kopelman was born in Vienna, Austria, on October 21, 1933. He earned his BS in Chemical Engineering at the Technion, Israel Institute of Technology (1955), as well as an Engineering Diploma (1956) and an MS in Physical Chemistry (1957). He was the first Israeli to receive the US Fulbright Travel Grant (1957). Professor Kopelman earned his Chemistry PhD at Columbia University (1960) and completed his postdoctoral training at Harvard (1960-62).

“Dr. Kopelman was a wonderful colleague with whom our faculty often collaborated, including on dissertation committees and research projects,” said Mary-Ann Mycek, Interim Chair and Professor, Biomedical Engineering. “He had a generous nature and enjoyed sharing his love of learning with our community. He will be greatly missed.”

Dr. Kopelman became an expert on photonics, laser and bioanalytical chemistry, chemical physics, catalysis, nano-materials and nano-devices. He was a professor at the University of Michigan for 57 years (1966-2023); the Richard Smalley Distinguished University Professor of Chemistry, Physics, Applied Physics, Biophysics, Biomedical Engineering and Chemical Biology; Member of The Michigan Nanotechnology Institute for Medicine and Biological Sciences, The Michigan Biointerfaces Institute, and The Rogel Cancer Center. 

He mentored more than 70 PhD students in Biomedical Engineering, Chemistry, Physics, Biophysics and Applied Physics, who launched successful academic careers as professors at primary universities, or pursued excellence in industry and government. Professor Kopelman has been celebrated for his leadership, research, and educator role in the materials nanoscience community, for key developments in percolation theory applications and fractal kinetics, and for developing nanochemistry and nanobiochemistry scientific paradigms and tools, integrating these into nanomedicine to treat life-threatening diseases.

“Dr. Kopelman was a wonderful scientist and mentor,” said former student Ariel Hecht (BME, PhD, 2013). “I will always remember his love and enthusiasm for science — he was genuinely passionate for his work. He also fostered a lab environment where students were encouraged to independently explore ideas, and he was very supportive of trying new things; I personally benefited a lot from this approach. He focused on what was most important, provided me with great feedback and mentorship, and encouraged me to graduate and move on to the next step when the time was right. I am very grateful for having been in his lab for five years, and will miss him greatly.”

Former biomedical engineering student Irene Sinn (PhD, 2012) added: “In the wake of Professor Raoul Kopelman’s loss, we celebrate a unique individual who was more than a scientist; he was an exceptional mentor and friend,” she said. “I was honored to have Professor Kopelman as my co-advisor during my time at University of Michigan – he crafted my intellect and fostered my growth into a thoughtful scientist and empathetic person. The global scientific community, together with our UM family, mourns his departure but cherishes his profound influence. His legacy is not confined to his scholarly work; it echoes in his students and colleagues, in our values, and in the way we approach our respective fields. We honor his memory by perpetuating his dedication to science. Remembering Professor Kopelman, we recall his brilliance, honesty, and kindness that touched so many lives. His lasting impact in science and mentorship will inspire future generations.”

BME extends our condolences to Professor Kopelman’s family, friends, colleagues and former students on his loss.